March - April 2007
Mobile Health Outreach Programme
Our community health programme got a major boost, when ASHWINI was selected by the Government of Tamilnadu as a partner for its Mobile Outreach programme to reach health care to remote areas. We received a big van that can be used as a Mobile Clinic two months ago. Clinics are organised on a regular basis for adivasi villages in the Gudalur taluk
With this programme, we are able to strengthen the reach of our curative programme to the adivasi villages. Since doctors visit the villages on a pre-determined dates, our patients need not come to the hospital at Gudalur for minor ailments and consult the doctors almost at their door steps. This van is also used for health education, regular screening of pregnant women and for following up the chronic patients.
We are also a consultant in formulating the Tamilnadu Health Systems Development project. During the last one year or so, we have been successful in establishing good rapport with the district administration in general, health administration of the State in particular. We strive to ensure proper implementation of the public health projects of the Government like HIVS - AIDS control programme, by becoming part of its network.
Adivasi Cultural Festival 2007
The eighteenth adivasi cultural festival was celebrated in the Kappala schools ground near Erumadu. Adivasi Munnetra Sangam has been celebrating this festival every year to highlight the cultural traditions of the five tribes here and to strengthen the unity between them.
Like previous years (2004, 2005, 2006), adivasi leaders from all the five tribes participated in the pooja; traditional dances and songs were performed throughout the night and competitions organised for children and youth.
Rice for Annadanam was contributed by three families in Erumadu area and food was provided to all the sangam members who attended the festival. Some more images and details of this year's cultural festival are given in the March issue of our education newsletter, Vidya.
Smokeless Stove programme
Smokeless Stove (called Choola) is one of the new gifts in this year's Good Gifts Catalogue being brought out by the Charities Advisory Trust, UK. Majority of the adivasi families use firefood as their source of energy for cooking. During the long monsoon season, all the families cook inside the house and the resultant smoke causes severe respiratory illnesses, especially to women and children. There is a high incidence of Tuberculosis in the adivasi villages and we had identified installation of smokeless stoves as a priority. In April, with the financial assistance of CAT, we have launched a special programme to install smokeless stoves in our villages.
We have identified three different designs and are estimating the convenience and fuel efficiency of each of these models. Local masons are installing these stoves like the one in the picture above, thus creating additional employment in our villages. We invited a resource person from the Foundation of Ecological Security in Andhra Pradesh to train our adivasi masons on installing low-cost smokeless stoves that can be made by ourselves. These improvised stoves can be easily made by the families at the village level and most importantly, can be maintained by them easily.
Already we have installed more than 30 such stoves in the Erumadu and Ayyankolli Areas. Eligible families are being identified by the village sangams in all the other Areas as well and training of masons is in progress. There is very good response from the families for this programme. We hope to install about 700 such smokeless stoves during the next six months. This will be
Award for Chembakolli.COM
In September 2006, we launched a redesigned Chembakolli.com website in collaboration with Actionaid, UK. During the last six months, the adivasi children in Gudalur valley have been communicating regularly with the kids in UK - through blogs, profiles of people here and emails.
We are happy to know that the Geographical Association in UK has selected this website for its award of 'Highly Commended Certificate'. The GA Awards are given for materials associated with geography in schools and colleges which are considered to make a significant contribution to geographical education and professional development. The excerpts from the letter received from the Geographical Association are given below :
"This interactive website about the village of Chembakolli, India, will support high quality geographical learning in the primary classroom. The website enables pupils to develop a better understanding of contemporary life in India through up-to-date quality images, maps and audio tracks.
Blogs from children who live in the village are really interesting and are regularly updated. Pupils can explore the website and find out about the lives of adults and children as well as topics such as animals found in the area.
The e-library lists other resources about Chembakolli and there is also a section that provides information and ideas to help teachers plan work for pupils.
This is a well researched and pupil-friendly website that deals comprehensively with village life in India using a real village and real people in real time."
The rich content in this website has generated lot of interest among the schools in UK. Caroline Chapman of Actionaid, UK wrote :
"The Teacher Talks Network is exceedingly popular with over 500 talks in 2006 - an increase of nearly 70% from 2005 and the most successful year yet. The talk on Chembakolli continues to be the most popular talk in primary schools. There have already been over 260 talks to the end of March this year."
We hope, this relationship between the adivasi children of Gudalur valley and those studying in UK will go a long way in creating a just and equal world tomorrow.
Just Change - the Fire is spreading !!
Here is a letter from a Fruit Grower in West Australia :
"I have been a fruit grower in West Australia for the past 30 years. I have seen the price of fruit drop from $16 a box down to -$3 a box. The very best export quality fruit gets $1 a kilo now. If I sell the second grade fruit myself to the neighbours I get $1 a kilo and my neighbours are happy and so am I. We basically now only are growing the fruit for ourselves and our small private market.
There are all sorts of rules and regulations here to stop you selling directly to the public and special food safety laws that are quite ridiculous. For example, you have to pay $1000 for a food safety inspection and an inspector comes out to the packing shed to inspect the shed lights to see that they won't drop down on the packing table etc.
From what I have read this is the trend world wide now and as you say, this system is the inherently and blatantly unfair structure of the entire trade economy.
Will you work with the people of West Australia? I am willing to work together with others for mutual benefit."
Letters like this from faraway places are signs of two things :
We are not alone in our analysis that the current trading system in the world is unjust and exploitative.
Producers of primary produce are the most vulnerable in the current trading system, whether they are in poor countries or in 'developed' countries like Australia.
The mainstream economic structures will do their best to prevent just solutions to our problems - like this farmer's effort to sell directly to his neighbours.
Four years ago, we initiated the Just Change project with the main objective of helping poor communities take control of their local economies and to establish direct trading links between producers and consumers. After a couple of years of intensive ground work, this project has got a momentum during the last one year. The Just Change India Producer Company registered in early 2006 has started trading in essential commodities and more than Rs. 20 lakhs worth commodities have been purchased in the first eight months itself. The Just Change branches at Calicut and Nilambur in Kerala have taken the lead and are slowly expanding their trading network to cover all their women members. In Gudalur, the adivasis are mobilising the capital required to take control of their local economy by starting a big savings programme. Farmers in Orissa have organised shops to sell their local produce within their community as much as possible. More than 5000 hand made soaps were exported to Amnesty International's trading division in UK by the Just Change producer groups in Gudalur and Calicut. These soaps can be ordered through Amnesty's website here.
Just Change UK too got a major fillip when the Marsh Farm community in Luton became our active partner. More than 4500 kg of tea have been exported to UK during the last one year. The volunteer groups and Marsh Farm are busy setting up the systems for sustaining and expanding this potential. In Germany, our support group 'Adivasi Tee Projekt' are making special efforts to strengthen the trading of Just Change products. The UK and German friends are also supporting initiatives in France and Belgium.
So, in short, the fire is spreading !! We are confident that our journey will go on and we will create our own market where justice, relationships and values come first - and, not profits.
Regular monthly updates about our education activities are available in the Vidyodaya Newsletters.
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